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Urgent Nutrition Needs for Oklahoma’s Teens

14 March 2016

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Did you know that nutrient needs are higher during adolescence years than at any other point in life? Outside of the first year of life, more growth occurs during the teenage years than any other time. With growing bodies and growing brains, teens demand more calories than small children, adults and seniors – but often, our teens are consuming empty calories rather than nutrient-dense foods, especially while at school.

Key Nutrients for Teens

Teenage boys require around 2,800 calories per day on average, while teenage girls require around 2,200. Of course individual needs will vary based on physical build and activity level, but typically, about 45 percent of bone mass is built during the teenage years. Proper nutrition is absolutely essential to support growing and changing bodies, especially as puberty hits and muscle mass develops. Teens often don’t get adequate amounts of the following nutrients:

  • B vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Fiber

Dietary Shortfalls Common Among Teens

U.S. News reports, “Teens are at particular risk of dietary shortfalls, since they often skip breakfast, consume much of their food outside the home, and are more likely to have sodas, snack foods, and fast foods rather than low-fat milk, fruits, and vegetables.”

Many teens’ diets greatly exceed the recommendations for fat, cholesterol and sodium, but most alarmingly, The National Health and Nutrition Survey reported that more than 20 percent of teens’ total calorie intake comes from sweeteners and added sugars.

What about Oklahoma’s teens? Data from the CDC shows that less than 24 percent of Oklahoma teens eat enough fruits, and only 10 percent eat enough vegetables on a regular basis. While it may seem that healthy options are hard to come by for teenagers, especially during the school day, relying on sugary drinks, fast food restaurants and vending machines simply doesn’t provide teens with the nutrition they truly need.

The Importance of Breakfast and Lunch

Between busy schedules and changing bodies, teens are more apt to skip breakfast and grab something quick for lunch. But skipping meals or skimping on nutrition can affect more than just their stomachs. Breakfast and lunch provide the energy needed to perform well both academically and in extracurricular activities.

Oklahoma’s school lunch options have come a long way since the mystery meats of the past. In fact, OKC Public Schools’ official school menu offers several wholesome and nutritious options, including:

  • Buffalo chicken wrap
  • Turkey chef salad
  • Fish bites
  • Corn on the cob
  • Garden salad
  • Sesame ginger cabbage
  • Asian vegetables and brown rice
  • Chicken parmesan sandwich
  • Baked barbecue chicken
  • Spicy southwest salad
  • Italian seasoned cauliflower
  • Parmesan crusted zucchini
  • Roasted baby carrots
  • Tropical mixed fruit
Cup of fruit and muffin

Help Your Teen Make Healthy Choices

You can’t ensure that your teen makes healthy choices when they’re at school each day, but remember that you have control over the food brought into your home, and having nutritious food options at home is a great place to start.

Talk to your teens and encourage them to eat a good breakfast each day, prep a lunch to bring to school, or grab a healthier option from the school cafeteria. By making healthy choices throughout the day, teens can perform their best both in the classroom and in their activities, giving their bodies the nutrients they need to grow.Sign up for our weekly email roundup of the best health and wellness content for Oklahomans.